Category Archives: commercial beers

Common Ale: Pelican Midnight Malt

A porter from Pelican brewing, this has as a prominent cocoa scent in the nose.

Porter in glass, on kitchen counter, with can of ale

That’s…almost, but not entirely, the beer. The flavors here also offer a little vanilla to provide some sweetness to the porter. I find this to be a great shift from the go-to accompaniment of coffee. This choice helps make this porter stand out and gives me something to recommend.

As the beer warms up, a bit more roasted quality comes out; it stops shy of smoky but there’s absolutely more intense, dark malt flavors going on. Still no coffee though.

Really, a damn fine accomplishment from the folks at Pelican and I say give this a go.

Common Ales: Ft George- Cathedral Tree

Fort George's Cathedral Tree ale, in glass, with can, on table.

The can says “Barrel Aged Pilsner”.

However, it doesn’t say what kind of barrel. Now, this is weird for multiple reasons, right? Because you’ve got a 4.8% beer-well within alcohol tolerances for pilsner-that has apparently been put in some kind of barrel.

But it seems unlikely that the barrel has been previously used to store alcohol, because the ABV is so normal. Wine or spirits tend to boost a beer’s alcohol percentage by a couple points, meaning I would expect this to be a 6% beer if aged the way I typically think of beer being aged.

So what did they do?

The nose is yeasty-has that funk that makes me think of bread rising.

The beer is a bit fruity, though. If I had to take a stab, I would guess that this had been kept in a white wine barrel, maybe chardonnay? It also finishes dry, contributing to that idea.

What if it was just aged in an oak barrel that had had no previous occupant?

I’d say that this beer doesn’t have the same thirst-quenching punch that I’d expect to get from a Pils, but there’s nothing wrong with it; set me down with a place of nachos and a pint of this and I’m good.

There Goes Another

Portland Brewing is shutting down operations this week and there’s a damn fine recap of their history at the Beervana blog.

There’s at a bit to unpack here-not the least of which being a bit of sadness for a pal who is losing his job as a result of this closure.

There’s also the end of (another) Portland institution, a brewery that helped usher in the craft brewing scene to Oregon. A reminder of a time when your flagship beer didn’t have to be an IPA; just something good that wasn’t a lager could make waves.

So I’m going to have a MacTarnahan’s amber, their flagship ale and also their Ink & Roses IPA, in honor of the event.

The nose is faintly caramel, and the beer is very light on the tongue.

In Portland tradition, this beer is probably a touch overhopped-the finishing bitterness is a bit stronger than I would expect. It’s also very bubbly; while the head is thin, it is persistent and pops in my mouth long after I’ve swallowed.

There’s also a nice roasted quality in the middle, which provides a more robust character than this beer would have otherwise. I mentioned how light it was-that roasted part keeps the beer from feeling thin. This is a beer that works well with all the top of the line pub food and probably should’ve been a go-to for Portlander’s everywhere.

The Ink & Roses IPA has a nice whiff of pine. The middle, however, doesn’t want to show up and the beer has a tongue scraping level of bitterness. There’s an herbal, grassy element, too-trying to wink and nod at the Roses part of the beer I suppose. It almost feels a little stuck in the past, though. Lacking balance, it’s a hard sell to people who aren’t hop head dedicated.

That said, I can also see this pairing nicely with most pub grub-the hops really cut through some of the greasier or spicier offerings. A remnant of the past that can still make a case for itself now-if the brewery had decided to make one.

But I also think that, just as Portland Brewing didn’t know how to market themselves, we took the brewery for granted, accepting that a reliably decent beer would just be there. And I get it; there are only so many hours in the day and one cannot give their attention to everything.

In Portland, everything is an option.

Still; thanks for the beer. I hope all the employees at Portland brewing land on their feet.


This article on opening a brewery as a Native American was an eye opener for me.

In addition to illuminating the challenges that Native people have within their own communities regarding alcohol, this story also shone a light on disinformation I’d been fed as a kid, namely that Native peoples were genetically more likely to be alcoholics.

What I didn’t know at the time was about the impoverishment and systematic conditions that are far greater contributors to illness than alcohol are. It is another reminder that poor people suffer under the yoke of life more than most, and I’m glad I was reminded, yet again, of this fact, but prouder to see people continue to fight against not only bad narratives, but create a future for themselves.

Common Ales: Deschutes Handup IPA

Deschutes Handup IPA pic

There is a surprising caramel quality to the nose. Reminiscent of something I would expect from a barley wine, which is unexpected, to say the least. The Handup seems to lack any hop quality at all and that’s disconcerting.

The midrange of this beer follows through on the caramel bit, so that’s nice but the finish is…just all off. I suspect this beer might be stale, if it isn’t outright off. The ending notes have a wet cardboard quality, and coupled with the bittering hops it is hard to get past.

I’m not sure what may have gone wrong here, but something certainly did.

That’s when I look at the date when this was bottled: 8/2/20. I’m drinking this on Nov 5. Well, that certainly lends itself to the idea that this beer went stale.

Common Ales: Monkless-Dubbel or Nothing

Let’s talk about economics.

Monkless dubbel ale in glass on table

At Winco, I saw a 3 variety pack of Monkless ales for about $28 (I’m rounding up).

Around the corner, where I bought this Monkless Dubbel of Nothing (a Belgian dubbel style ale, go figure) I saw this beer, and the other two beers-this one for $7, another for $7 and another for $8 (again, all rounded up).

Now, I know most of you were told there would be no math, but the fact of the matter is that buying the three beers individually would’ve left you with enough money to get a fourth beer.


I really have to wonder what’s going on there. What is someone thinking? A sucker born every minute?

That’s a pretty gross way to treat your customers.

On top of all of that, the beer itself is just ok. It has some of the chocolate and dried fruit flavors in the middle, but the nose and the back end all have a hint of paper to them, making me believe this beer has gone a little stale.

So there’s a method to overcharge people, for beer that isn’t at its best? Hmmm….

Waiting is the Hardest Part

Sometimes I make the mistake of cellaring beer far, far too long. (Prime example: my 2008 Deschutes Abyss.)

Recently I made the opposite mistake: drinking a beer that was not yet at its prime.

The beer? A bière de garde from Wildeye Brewing.

beer in tulip glass on table

The beer was perfectly fine as-is. It tasted like a brown beer on steroids, with touches of sugar and raisin, though with a bit of a funky ending. But it was only after I had the beer that I read the label: “This beer will cellar for two years.”


I mean, it’s the beer’s style. It’s even in the damn name of the beer. It tells you to put it away. It wants you to wait.

And…I did not.

Oh well. There’s always another bottle.

Common Ales: Cascade Honey Ginger Lime

Cascade Honey Ginger Lime ale

Cascade Brewing has always been a complicated brewery for me. They do what they do very well-but what they do is sour ales. Which I do not like: they all just taste like vinegar to me.

Yet, one of my most memorable ales was Cascade’s Cherry Lemon Quad ale, kept in Maker’s Mark barrels. I love telling people about this beer, because it was just so interesting!

So, when Cascade went into making mass market ales, I knew that they had to do something different because most people just were not going to go for the sour ales that Cascade usually produces. The intensity of their sour ales is just that strong.

I was right and at least so far, delightfully so.

The  lime is forefront in the nose. I think: is it lime, or is it just that this is a sour ale and that’s the scent I usually pick up? It really seems like more the latter, but I want to give this beer the benefit of the doubt. However, that nose is not an indicator of something I usually like.

But the thing is; it’s a great drink. There is a solid midrange of sweetness but the finish does show off the lime and the ginger. This gives the beer a delightful drinkable quality, and a finish that isn’t exactly dry, but still has a little pucker to it. 

Now, as the beer warms up, ginger starts to take over .Your mileage may vary as to whether or not that is a positive quality. I don’t mind it, because of the refreshing aspects of the ale, initially. I just felt it was worth noting, in case there are readers who really dislike ginger.